Europe

Paris attacks: Abdeslam's capture 'major blow' to IS in Europe

  • 19 March 2016
  • From the section Europe
Media captionWitnesses in Molenbeek say grenades were fired during the police operation in which Salah Abdeslam was captured - Damian Grammaticas reports

The capture of a suspect in the 2015 Paris attacks is "a major blow" to the Islamic State (IS) group in Europe, France's interior minister has said.

Bernard Cazeneuve said security forces had managed to "incapacitate several individuals who are clearly extremely dangerous and totally determined".

France is seeking suspect Salah Abdeslam's extradition from Belgium.

He was wounded and arrested in a dramatic raid in Brussels on Friday after four months on the run.

Some 130 people were killed and dozens wounded in multiple attacks in Paris on 13 November. IS said it carried out the shootings and bombings.

Senior security officials both in France and Belgium are meeting to assess the situation.

Abdeslam, a 26-year-old French national born in Brussels, had lived in the Molenbeek district of the Belgian capital before the Paris attacks.

He is believed to have returned to Belgium immediately after the attacks, in which his brother Brahim blew himself up.

Molenbeek raid: As it happened

Salah Abdeslam's luck runs out

Is Molenbeek a haven for Belgian jihadis?

The subject of a massive manhunt, Abdeslam was arrested about 500m (1,600ft) from his home.

Another man who was injured and arrested, Monir Ahmed Alaaj, was also on a wanted list, Belgian prosecutors said.

Media captionExplosion heard during live news report

Three members of a family accused of harbouring Abdeslam have also been detained.

The raid came after Abdeslam's fingerprints were found in a flat in another Brussels district, which was raided on Tuesday.

Abdeslam was wounded in the leg as police moved in. Dramatic footage showed him being bundled into a police car after a volley of gunfire. Both suspects were discharged from hospital on Saturday.

Image copyright AP

French President Francois Hollande said Abdeslam's arrest was "an important moment".

"The battle against terrorism does not end tonight, even though this is a victory," Mr Hollande told a news conference on Friday with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

"We must catch all those who allowed, organised or facilitated these attacks and we realise that they are a lot more numerous than we thought earlier and had identified," he said.

Mr Michel said the raid had come after "intense" detective work and said it was a "very important result in the battle for democracy".

Accomplices

Prosecutors said the second wanted man arrested in Molenbeek, Monir Ahmed Alaaj, had travelled with Abdeslam to Germany last October, where his fingerprints were taken during an identity check.

A false Syrian passport in Alaaj's name and Belgian identity papers under an alias were found in a flat in the southern suburb of Forest that was raided on Tuesday.

Abdeslam's fingerprints were also found in the Forest flat.

One man - identified as Algerian national Mohamed Belkaid and linked to the Paris attacks - was shot dead in Tuesday's raid.

Officials have identified most of the people they believe to have carried out the assaults.

Most of the suspects either died during the attacks or were killed in subsequent police raids.


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